Earlier this morning, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments for Janus v. AFSCME Local 31. This case is a challenge to the 1977 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education decision. In Abood, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld “union shops” in the public sector as legal and to be treated as no different from private sector unions in this regard. In a “union shop,” all workers are represented by a union’s contract, although employees may choose to not become a member. Because all workers benefit from the wages, benefits and representation provided by a union, all employees in a union shop pay an “agency fee” also largely referred to as a non-member’s “fair share” of dues cost. In our union and many others, this is 85% of what members pay.
Overturning Abood would represent a dramatic and sudden shift from the way the Court has treated public sector unions for the last 40 years. Eliminating the agency fee is an attack on public sector unions, plain and simple. No matter what the Supreme Court or any court believes, we will continue to organize as workers. We are stronger together. AFSCME Local 34 was chartered in April 1950, 21 years before Minnesota’s PELRA (Public Employees Labor Relations Act) was passed granting far reaching labor protections to public workers. Memphis sanitation workers were chartered by AFSMCE for years before the strike in 1968 that drew national attention and resulted in formal recognition and a new contract.
For more coverage, please see an excellent Special Edition of the AFSMCE Local 34 Banner for commentary by President Lee Saunders, former Council 5 Executive Director Eliot Seide and more.